A very worrying subject as we age. Good news, there are several approaches that can reduce the risks. We recently talked about this topic during a Facebook LIVE event which you can listen to here (https://www.facebook.com/produitsvitoli/videos/2377422422277239/) (French Only).
For this article, we will present the main recommendations of Dr. Antoine Hakim, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital and founder of the Neuroscience Research Institute of the University of the Canadian Capital. Dr. Hakim has numerous distinctions including the appointment of an officer of the Order of Canada. He published a book in 2017 on the subject: Save Your Mind (Barlow Book Publishing, 256 pages).
As reported by Dr. Hakim, the most important thing is to increase our cognitive reserve, take care of our cardiovascular system, and limit the risk of damaging our brain.
Here are his 7 suggestions for increasing your cognitive reserves (taken from the book):
- Memory games are not bad, but their benefits are limited.
- Offer your brain a variety of activities, particularly those that require the coordination of several systems: tennis (eye-hand), certain video games (eye-hand-ear), dance (eye-ear-body), etc.
- Stimulate the brain: read, write, calculate, remember phone numbers, etc. You have to do many tasks every day.
- Conversely, avoid overly passive activities that don’t stimulate the mind (like watching TV).
- Maintain quality social ties: good friends with whom you communicate often.
- Stay active in everyday life: get active, whatever you prefer.
- Don’t be put off by an occasional brain fog. You have to work your brain.
The book describes very well, and in detail, the reasons for the importance of the cardiovascular system to the brain. The brain consumes about 20% of all the energy in the body. This energy is brought by the blood. If there is a shortage of blood because the main arteries are blocked, or because small arteries break (which causes stroke), the brain dies quickly (in three or four hours). In comparison, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 27% of dementia cases, but 80% of dementia cases have abnormal blood flow to the brain or elsewhere. It is therefore important to pay attention to all the factors of cardiovascular health.
Among these cardiovascular health factors, here are some related to the risk of stroke (% stroke attributable to the risk factor mentioned): high alcohol consumption (5%), stress (10%), poor diet (17%), high cholesterol (25%), physical inactivity (28%) and hypertension (35%). Hypertension is by far the most important risk factor to watch for. Normal blood pressure values are around 120/80. The first number indicates the pressure generated by the heart to send blood to all the organs and the second, the resistance of the network to the circulation of blood. Thus, if the heart provides too much pressure, it will become exhausted and risk damaging the small blood vessels and if the resistance to circulation is too great (blood vessels too rigid), the heart will tire to force to push the blood to organs with poor results.
Hypertension is closely linked to several other factors such as physical activity, body weight, quality of sleep, stress management and diet. The quality of social life is also part of it through the great improvement in stress management that it provides. Dr. Hakim’s book reviews each of these factors to explain their importance and provides areas for improvement.
Our first article on the subject (Cognitive Health and Aging) also talked about the importance of cardiovascular health, in giving dietary recommendations.
Keep in mind that if the risks of dementia constitute the first health concern for seniors, they should also represent the greatest motivation to pay attention to in regards to all lifestyle habits. Here are some tips (summarized and sourced) from Dr Hakim to get motivated:
- Reflect on your past attempts telling yourself that you are going to get there, ask yourself if you are ready and get ready to put in a good deal of energy.
- Talk about your goals/intentions with those around you; they will encourage you and congratulate you on your progress.
- Change your habits in general. For example, buy healthy foods, enjoy cooking, change your schedules to give yourself the time needed. The fact of wanting to stop eating fast food cannot be applied without generating other activities.
- Instead of going easy (like stopping the eating fast foods), tell yourself that you should make your days more physically and mentally demanding.
- Think about all of the things you need to improve, but do it one factor at a time.
- Celebrate small successes, savor the changes; your cognitive abilities and your memory are worth it.
Many Vitoli® products can help. Think about the quality of your sleep (Vitoli® Sleep), stress management (Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety), your general health (Vitoli® Healthy Aging), the health of blood and cardiovascular vessels (Vitoli® Cardiovascular) and of course, Vitoli® Memory and Cognitive Health. Here are the health claims authorized by Health Canada for this product:
- Helps improve cognitive functions in adults.
- Helps improve memory in adults.
- Helps prevent vitamin B12 or vitamin D deficiency
- Provides antioxidants.
Feel free to email us if you need advice, it’s always a pleasure to be there for you.
- Dr Antoine Hakim, 2017. Save Your Mind. Seven Rules to Avoid Dementia. Barlow Book Publishing. 256 pages.